ROME, Italy: Italian President Sergio Mattarella has canceled his upcoming retirement and was re-elected to a second seven-year term as the country’s head of state, ending days of the political impasse by party leaders that risked eroding the nation’s credibility.
Lawmakers pleaded with Mattarella, 80, whose first term ends on Thursday and who had said repeatedly that he did not want a second term, to change his mind after lawmakers in the Italian Parliament and regional delegates tried in vain for days to reach a consensus on other possible presidential candidates.
Mattarella won the election in the eighth round of voting, gaining the minimum 505 votes needed from the eligible 1,009 Grand Electors. He went on to win 759 votes.
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In a televised statement from the Quirinal presidential palace, Mattarella told the nation he could not let his personal desires prevail over a “sense of responsibility” during the “grave health, economic and social emergency” Italy was enduring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Premier Mario Draghi, former European Central Bank chief who is leading a pandemic unity government, called Mattarella’s re-election “splendid news for Italians.”
Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who heads the center-right Forza Italia party, and a week earlier dropped his own bid to be president, said unity “today can only be found around” the figure of Mattarella.
Former Premier Giuseppe Conte, head of the populist 5-Star Movement, also praised Mattarella as “the guarantor of everybody, impartial, authoritative.”
Also lobbying for Mattarella was right-wing League party leader Matteo Salvini, whose candidates failed to win in the early rounds.
Before the election, Conte and other leaders said a woman should become Italy’s president, but those efforts did not lead to anything.
Among the disappointed women’s advocates in Italy was Linda Laura Sabbadini, who said on state TV, “Politics cut a terrible figure in these days.
Italy’s presidency is a mainly ceremonial role, but the president can send legislation back to Parliament for changes and influence party leaders to try to form a government if a coalition fails.
On Saturday, Pope Francis said Mattarella’s re-election showed a “spirit of generosity” during a pandemic marked by “widespread discomfort and uncertainty.”